Thursday, December 2, 2010
Review: Frontier Men
Frontier Men by J.P. Bowie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The story opens with Red Hawk returning to his mother’s Shoshone tribe from his exile in the “white man’s” world. He experiences a surprisingly warm welcome there, particularly from the chief’s younger brother, Fighting Bear, with whom he soon falls in love. Their happy yet secret relationship comes to a sad and sudden end when Fighting Bear dies in a fight against white soldiers. Red Hawk takes his lover’s murderer captive, but he is expelled from the Shoshone when he finds himself unable to kill the defenseless man. Now he’s on his own again, with no clothes, shelter, and with only his weapons to rely on for food. After he has lived through his first winter alone, the loneliness gets to him. When he comes across a white fur-hunter, he finds himself intrigued. Red Hawk decides to stalk the white man and, to his delight, discovers the paleface is a lover of men, too. A raging bear just comes in handy for him to make the huntsman’s acquaintance.
Daniel MacLeod left Pennsylvania after he lost the man he loved to tragic circumstances. He still misses his dead lover, but has been silently longing for a companion for a while now. On his way back to the trading post, a strangely attractive young Indian crosses his path, soon followed by a mad grizzly bear. The two men fight the powerful beast together, finally beating it, but the Indian apparently gets severely hurt in the process. Although Daniel wants nothing to do with a “thieving redskin”, he finds himself attracted to that particular one, so much so he can’t help but becoming intimate with him. Before Daniel knows, he has gotten himself a companion, one who makes it very clear he won’t be shaken easily. No one is more surprised than Daniel himself to realize he quite likes the prospect.
Now continuing their journey together, Daniel and Red Hawk have an unpleasant encounter with three rowdies in the trade post’s saloon, forcing them to leave quickly. They decide to head for California and use the money Daniel made to start a horse farm, a dream they both share. But the three rowdies catch up with them. Before robbing them of all their possessions, including their weapons, they truss Daniel up and make him watch as they each take a turn in raping Red Hawk. Afterwards, Daniel wants to seek revenge, but Red Hawk convinces him to let Fate take care of the evildoers’ punishment. Yet, the shared dreadful experience has strengthened their bond and made them realize that what they feel for each other is more than a fleeting attraction. They travel on, overcoming the hardships of being almost weaponless in the wilderness together. However, their struggles aren’t over yet. When they encounter the three rowdies again, it isn’t about humiliation and robbery anymore. This time, their love must stand the test of a fight for life and death.
I liked the characters, particularly Red Hawk. He is sweet and easygoing by nature, and quite naive in a way, and yet makes sure he gets what he wants, resorting to manipulation if he must. Some of his shenanigans made me think of him as an American Indian fairy queen, if there is such a thing. Daniel is equally good-natured, although he has a hot temper, and he puts up with Red Hawk’s games even though he knows that he’s being played, and he stands up for Red Hawk against other white men. The attraction between them is clear and mutual, and the sex is hot. Both complement each other and grow together over the course of the story yet I couldn’t quite get into the tale. Daniel and Red Hawk shared some humorous moments, and they expressed their mutual feelings to each other, but I couldn’t entirely buy it. Perhaps this was partly due to the element of insta-love and the way how Red Hawk was first described as feeling eternally connected to Fighting Bear and a few pages later he’s experiencing the same feelings regarding Daniel. Also, the author chose to make both of them think and act like a rather modern gay couple. They could have been taken out of the 1820′s and placed into some contemporary suburb, and they’d still have worked.
My biggest issue was the last part of the book, though, the entire business with the three rogues. Those scenes felt like taken from “Storytelling 101″. Get the heroes together, check. Create a challenge for them, check. Let them overcome it and grow stronger doing so, check. Technically, it was perfectly done, but it lacked genuineness. Subsequently, the rape scene felt cold and distant where it should have been disturbing, and both Red Hawk and Dan dealt with it like it was almost meaningless – which made me wonder why it had to happen in the first place.
Overall, a quite nice and entertaining story with some funny moments and likeable characters. I’d recommend it to fans of the romantically – transfigured view to the Old West who like Indians pictured as noble savages and their White friends as gruff, golden – hearted bears.
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